WASHINGTON, D.C.—Today the American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE), with the support of the AFL-CIO and Public Services International (PSI), formally charged the United States Government, before a U.N. agency, with violations of international labor standards.
In a precedent-setting complaint filed today with the Committee on Freedom of Association of the International Labour Organization (ILO), AFGE charges the Bush Administration (and past administrations) with denying eligible government employees the fundamental right to freedom of association—a principle set forth in the ILO conventions to which all member states are required to comply—including the right to organize and the right to bargain collectively. The ILO is the United Nations agency dedicated to the promotion of social justice and internationally recognized human and labor rights.
“AFGE has opened a new front, taking its cause to the global community,” says AFGE National President Bobby L. Harnage, Sr.
“In a globalized economy, it has become imperative for workers around the world to air their grievances in international forums,” adds Hans Engelberts, general secretary of PSI, a federation of 600 labor unions in 140 countries. “In today’s economically integrated world, the injustices suffered by workers in one nation surely injure us all.”
While the current administration insists that union membership gets in the way of national security, current law (U.S.C. §7532) authorizes the head of any agency to immediately suspend and remove a federal employee—without pay—if he or she poses a national security risk.
“Federal employee unions have formally represented the vast majority of the federal workforce for 40 years, and in all that time union membership has never been inconsistent with our nation’s security,” asserts the AFGE president. “In fact, federal employee unions have helped to keep the homeland secure.”
AFGE’s complaint to the ILO challenges recent and historical legislation that has undermined collective bargaining and removed otherwise eligible members of the U.S. Attorney’s office, the National Imagery and Mapping Agency, the Transportation Security Administration, and others from statutorily provided coverage and protection under the Federal Service Labor-Management Relations Statute.
The ILO will hear the complaint at its November meeting in Geneva, Switzerland. If the Committee on Freedom of Association finds in favor of AFGE, the ILO governing body can ask the U.S. government to undertake measures to correct anomalies and may further monitor steps taken to correct violations.
Affiliated with the AFL-CIO, AFGE is the largest union for government employees, representing some 600,000 workers in the U.S. and overseas. As the federation of unions in the United States, the AFL-CIO includes more than 13 million of the nation’s workers in 65 member unions.
The international trade union federation Public Services International (PSI), unites public sector workers in more than 600 trade unions in more than 140 countries. Twenty million women and men in a variety of public service jobs are members of PSI.